Collecting Colonial Coins and Currency – A Primer

Collecting Colonial Material

Collecting colonial numismatic material allows you to avoid the monotony of collecting regular U.S. Mint issue coins by variety or type. The number of different types and varieties is much greater. It also allows you the thrill of chasing many rare varieties which still remain surprisingly affordable compared to U.S. Mint coins of similar rarity. You can also enjoy comparing the wide variety in style and craftsmanship found. There is a special charm to the crudeness of some of the coins, as well as great beauty to be found in some of the tokens, medals, and currency designs of the period. Colonial numismatics ties in very closely to the history of the period. You can learn about the colonial economy, about the relations between England and her colonies, and the relations between England and the rest of Europe and America (Betts medals). Equally fascinating are the stories of entrepreneurs of the time such as John Hull, William Wood, Dr. Samuel Higley, John Chalmers, James Jarvis, Gouvemeur Morris, Capt. Thomas Machin and the many businessmen and rogues that participated in the state coinage business during the Confederation period. In addition, there are the multiple colonial currency issues. You can learn how the colonies were pioneers in the use of paper money and the stabilizing role of paper money in the colonial economy.

What to collect?
Colonial Currency

There are multiple ways to start a colonial collection. You can start with a basic colonial coin type set. This carries you from 1652 into the post-Confederation period. State coinages also offer a very popular and varied field. You can select from Massachusetts silver, Massachusetts copper, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Vermont coppers, and New York-related issues (none officially authorized). The Fugio cents represent the first coins issued under the authority of the United States in what proved to be a largely unsuccessful venture. You can also collect some of the private, speculative issues like the Continental “Dollars,” the Constellatio Novas, and some of the early Washington issues. The field of “Washingtonia” allows you to focus either on the early coin patterns, expand into the later (1790-1810 ) tokens and medals, or go into the endless variety of Washington issues that have surfaced throughout the history of this country. Colonial currency can be collected by state or Continental Congress issues, or by dates, denominations, signers, and by relation to important historical figures like Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere. From the purely historical perspective, Betts medals represent an excellent series. The variety within the colonial field is nearly endless and never dull.